Do you have a financial first aid kit?

In earthquake-prone California, every other person I know has at least one earthquake kit. In other parts of the country, they have tornado kits. Options are limitless if you do a Google search of disaster kits. Friends have all sorts of preparedness kits in their homes, offices and cars with days’ supply of water and non-perishable items.

How about a financial first aid kit? In the event that you pass away unexpectedly or become incapacitated, a financial first aid kit will make it easier for your spouse or next of kin to get your affairs in order. Even if you’re not ready to pass on or share all your financial info to another person, they should at least be organized in one place and labeled in folders if you are OCD like me.

“You should have at least two back-ups – a cloud-based one and a physical one like an external hard-drive,” advised a friend who works in the tech industry.

Safe deposit boxes are no longer as popular as they used to be, according to an estate planning lawyer I talked to recently. “If you are not on the account, you need a court order to access the box after your loved one passes,” he said.

I love scanning important documents like passports and birth certificates. With the Dropbox app on my phone, I can access them anytime or when I’m traveling. For  keeping track of passwords, you can download one of the many free or inexpensive apps like Keeper Password Manager or Password Manager Vault. Or you can write them down and slip it into a folder – not advisable, but it might work for the tech-averse.

Towards the last few pages of my book, I added a list of must-have items to include in  your financial first aid kit, which includes copies of:

  • medical power of attorney
  • durable power of attorney
  • living will
  • estate plan (more on this in a future post)
  • bank account info
  • retirement accounts
  • life insurance
  • long-term care insurance (if separate from life insurance)
  • marriage license
  • vehicle titles
  • house and other property deed/s
  • websites and passwords
  • other documents relevant to your particular situation (ex. adoption papers, proofs of ownership, divorce decrees, etc.)

You can start building your financial first aid kit slowly. Try to devote a few minutes a day or a couple of hours a week to organizing these important documents, making copies and storing them systematically. Involve your spouse or significant other in this process or at least let him/her know where your kit can be found.

Mira Reverente

Mira Reverente is a journalist, editor and blogger based in Southern California. She is always on the look-out for uplifting and local stories to tell from personal finance to fitness to family events. She currently writes and edits for a few regional publications. More

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